How to Help When Families Fall Apart


Use this guide to minister to families in crisis.

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She’s always been such a bright, happy child,” the teacher said
to me. “Always listening intently and taking part in everything we
do. But lately, she’s been withdrawn and participates only rarely.
I thought maybe she was just going through a phase. Then today, in
the middle of the Bible story, she climbed into my lap, turned her
face up to mine and said, ‘My daddy went away.’ Her eyes were so
sad, I didn’t know what to do! So I just held her. Can you tell me
what’s going on in her family?”

I didn’t know, but I told her I’d find out. Several days later,
I discovered that her parents had separated a few weeks earlier and
were now in the process of a divorce.

I have to admit I was a bit shaken by this experience. It was
the first time I’d encountered such a dramatic change of behavior
in a child due to what was happening in her family. That was many
years ago, and in those days, I didn’t know what to do for children
in that situation. So I told the teacher to give her a little extra

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It wasn’t until years later that the issue surfaced again. In a
new children’s ministry position, I encountered more out-of-control
behavior than I’d seen in all the years at my other church. As I
became better acquainted with the families in the church, I
discovered most of the problems could be directly traced to what
was happening within each child’s family. We had children whose
parents were separated, divorced, or remarried. We had children
being raised by their grandparents, children in foster care, and
those living with an alcoholic or addicted parent.

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